Paso Canoas is the town on the border between Panama and Costa Rica on the PanAmerican highway. I’d been there a number of times to cross the border but hadn’t spent much time exploring the shops there. Many people go there to shop because of the lower prices and good deals.
I’m from the US where you go to the mall and walk down the spacious corridors. If you can’t find something you look for the map – Penny’s is down that hall, the shoe store is up there on the upper level. The bathrooms are by the food court and there are benches in attractive areas if you want to rest.
Now, picture the exact opposite of that and you might be imagining something like Paso Canoas. I would have to visit a number of times more to even begin to make sense of it! There are some larger stores, and tons of little shops in every possible space. If you walk out the back door of some you are in Panama, but the front door is in Costa Rica. There are passageways behind stores crammed with little shops, sometimes with music blaring, and watch your step because there are steps and uneven floors.
I took some photos, though they don’t begin to convey the experience of Paso Canoas
City Mall – we didn’t go in because we couldn’t find any parking anywhere nearby
Jerusalem Mall? I think? There was a parking lot near here which we appreciated.
We walked past the immigration office which was packed with the longest lines I’d ever seen! It was the day after Christmas which I’m sure had a lot to do with that.
I saw a touring bicycle but couldn’t see the cyclist – probably waiting in the long lines
Police, money changers, and other various people hang out in front of the immigration building, which, to add to the confusion, was being repaired or remodeled
We head south to see what we can find down this street
Sugar cane juice, anyone? It’s actually quite good, sweet of course, but with a sort of grassy flavor.
Don’t ask me what this is all about
We passed a number of medical clinics
There were some eating places in one area, and this one had prices posted
We also saw a number of dental clinics. I wonder what the quality of their work is like, and the prices.
We are off to wander around some more
There was a long passageway crammed full of shops. I wonder how they all sell enough to stay in business. If you want to leave, there were tiny narrow passageways leading out to the street that you see in the next photo.
lots more shops facing the street
On the way back the lines to check in to Panama were just as long as the lines to check out.
The truck looks a bit overloaded!
This is only a tiny taste of Paso Canoas. I would have to spend quite a bit more time there to make any sense of it. I wasn’t sure where I was some of the time, and I’m glad I wasn’t there to buy something I really needed to find. I did find a set of sheets for our spare bed though, full size. I passed over the $6 sets for something I liked a bit better for $8.
If you want an interesting experience, go wander around Paso Canoas.
About Kris Cunningham
We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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One can find bargains there. If you are a Panamanian citizen or you have a E-cedula you have duty free allowance of $ 2,000.–.
I have a cedula so I could shop there. I don’t have anything in particular I need to buy but I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks!
It looks very interesting. Loved the pictures. It would make an interesting trip. Now if I could convince my friend who lives on the Costa Rica side , not too far from the border, to meet me there, that would be fun.
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There you go! You could have an adventure together poking around the shops.
Same can be said of Central Ave in Panama City. Check out my review on Trip Advisor: Same Thing, Over and Over!
I’ve never been there. I’ll have to check it out sometime.
Avenida Central’s main attraction for me was the Taboga clothing store, that’s where Nena was working when I met her.
The street was open to traffic then and was always bumper to bumper as a main thoroughfare. The area below Plaza 5 de Mayo was closed to traffic and it became a market center. It has every kind of shop one can imagine but be careful of straying to far from the avenue into the side streets. There are great bargains, as with everywhere in Panama, there are no fixed prices. We took my sister there on her first visit a few years ago as it is a great place to get photographs of a cross section of Panama’s shoppers.
From Plaza 5 de Mayo to Casco Viejo is only about 2/3rds of a mile so it is an easy stroll to take in the history and attractions there. Personal opinion: they ruined the view from Casco Viejo when they built the Cinta Costera in the bay around it.
I found it on the map. I think we might have been near there by accident on our first visit to PC when we got lost every time we set out to go somewhere.
so does that mean you don’t have to leave Panama but can get into Costa Rica thru the “back door” of some stores???
It’s a very strange border. You can walk from Panama into Costa Rica and not even realize it. The Panamanian immigration building with all the people waiting, we just walked right through or around it. The Costa Rica office is ahead farther than you can see from the Panamanian office. The whole area around and between is teaming with people, cars, trucks, taxis, and shops. I’m sure that is why there is a check point down the road to be sure people are actually legal when they leave the border. The whole border crossing thing is so confusing there are guys who make their money by guiding people to the right locations and assisting with the process.
The craziness of it was entertaining and the experience was so much fun! Is there a costal town nearby for a fun fish market experience. I wonder how early we’d have to go to see the loaded fish boats returning to dock to sell their catch?
Yes I know a good fish market south of the airport in Pedregal. We can go! Fish is $2.50/lb or less, and for a tip they will clean it and prepare it to your specifications. They have also opened a little restaurant next door that we could try. I think our next adventure is taking shape 🙂